tv NBC Bay Area News Special NBC March 12, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm PST
plus, the high-stakes outcome hanging in the balance. the reason a split bench could tip the scale on issues that we've been arguing over for years. and speaking of scales. melinda jackson: the superdelegates really are there to allow the party to put their thumb on the scale at the end of the day. sam: superdelegates, flexing an outsized role in the election. we fact check claims party insiders could swing the presidential nomination. finally. sam: are we looking at a ticking time-bomb? sarah anzia: yes. sam: tension over california's pension deficit. more than a million workers all owed money california might not have. now, a recent report rings the alarm. we look for the answers and get to the truth in tonight's "reality check." and good evening, and thank you for joining us for this special edition of "reality check." i'm sam brock. with the political season now moving full-throttle, and
candidate claims coming from every corner of the stage, we'll take you behind the top statements and fact check the substance of their words using hard data and expert analysis to get to the truth. and tonight, we start with who's pulling the strings, voters or political insiders? it's a part of the nominating process that hasn't gotten much attention until now, superdelegates. sanders supporters claim those superdelegates could swing the outcome of this race, handing a tight contest to hillary clinton. now, for some background. superdelegates are still delegates. the key difference with this group, they are unpledged or not bound by the popular vote. this year, democrats have 712 superdelegates, or about 15% of all delegates. it's a group made up of all democratic members of the congress, sitting governors, some former governors, state national party leaders, and vip. melinda: the superdelegates really are there to allow the party to put their thumb on the scale at the end of the day, and
to influence the party establishment will about who the candidate should be. sam: but political scientist melinda jackson told us superdelegates don't generally decide nominations. in fact, they can flip their support if it's out of tune with what voters want. melinda: and the superdelegates get to choose which candidate to support, and they can change their mind, so they are unpledged up to the point of the convention. sam: in an op-ed called "confessions of a superdelegate," former new hampshire democratic party chair kathy sullivan echoes this point. she writes, quote, "the superdelegates have never been the deciding votes in the nominating process. our goal is to elect democrats to office; nothing more, nothing less." bernie sanders supporters have created petitions chock-full of hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on superdelegates to support the person with the most votes. and the reality? history says they'll go with the candidate commanding the most
votes, whether it's the vermont senator or the former secretary of state. sanders should know. he is, after all, a superdelegate. now, from party politics to a political tug of war over the supreme court vacancy. justice scalia's passing produced a flood of claims about who should appoint his successor. with democrats and republicans both crying foul over proper procedure, we consulted the constitution for answers. the supreme court chambers are a little emptier than normal, and dc darkened by the death of a great legal mind, justice antonin scalia. that much both parties agree on. donald trump: it's called delay, delay, delay. sam: but when it comes to nominating his successor, the group's claims contradict. barack obama: there's no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off-years. that's not in the constitutional text. marco: and both parties have followed this president.
there comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating because--or you stop the advise and consent processes. sam: senator marco rubio is talking about this clause in the constitution, article ii, section ii, which does talk about the president's right to nominate and the senate's duty to deliver advice and consent on a supreme court nominee. but is there a time limit on either, as rubio suggests? pratheepan gulasekaram: yeah, and that is political theater, all right? sam: pratheepan gulasekaram is a constitutional law professor at santa clara university, who says rubio's claim is false. pratheepan: but there is absolutely no restriction on the ability of a president to nominate somebody even with one month left in his term, other than the practicalities of actually being able to finish that process. sam: now, it's true that judicial nominations this late in a president's term are not common. ted cruz: we're not going to give up the us supreme court for a generation by allowing barack obama to make one more liberal appointee.
sam: conservatives like senator ted cruz claim the court majority could swing on the kind of confirmation that hasn't occurred in decades. the right-leaning heritage foundation in dc echoes cruz's concern. hans von spakovsky: if you look at the last 80 years, the precedent on the senate under both parties has been that they won't confirm a nominee for the supreme court whether the vacancy occurs in an election year. sam: the basic idea expressed here is true. the 80-year claim is not. in 1968, lyndon b. johnson nominated a justice in the final year of his presidency. that bid failed. in 1987, ronald reagan nominated justice anthony kennedy, who was confirmed in 1988, the final year of reagan's presidency. barack obama: i plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. sam: and president obama is insisting the senate fulfill its responsibility for a timely vote.
but this claim too rings hollow, as the constitution does not contain a clause for a timely senate hearing or vote. they're not violating any part of the constitution by holding up the process. pratheepan: no, there's no provision that would prevent them from doing it. but it's more a question of whether we want a constitutional culture in which the justices of the supreme court or the nomination process can be subject to these parties and whims. sam: and both parties are pushing their agenda, but the truth is neither side is breaking any formal rules. but the logistics tell a pretty interesting story. the longest wait for a supreme court candidate in us history from nomination to vote is 125 days. president obama has 294 days left in his term. okay, moving aside the history books and onto the here and now. up next, the vacancy on the supreme court could look gaping if it leads to new law. we measure the impact of an eight justice bench on issues
like abortion and immigration, which the court takes on this term. plus. female: the underfunding of public pensions is actually one of the biggest policy problems facing the state of california, and the nation actually. sam: a pension shortfall ready to rob the golden state of precious resources. we investigate claims that paying california's pension debt could come out of your wallet. [music]
sam: welcome back. as arguments boil over on the nomination of a new supreme court justice, we're in the middle of the high court's term. and the court, down to eight judges, could lock horns four to four on critical cases. since a split cannot establish judicial precedent, we wanted to find out what happens to red hot issues right now
before the supreme court. the supreme court's docket this term is loaded with divisive issues, like a texas law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same medical standards as hospitals. pratheepan: these are cases that it is highly likely that having an eight-justice court is going to make a significant difference. sam: constitutional law expert pratheepan gulasekaram says the loss of conservative justice antonin scalia could force this case, and other battleground issues, to a tie vote. pratheepan: and that means that the case itself at the supreme court level has no precedential value. but the lower court holding, or the highest federal court as you said, that heard the case, that ruling is going to stick. sam: that means in the event of a tie, the texas abortion law would stay since a us circuit court upheld it. texas clinics providing abortions would get slashed from 40 to about 10. meantime, there's another marquee texas case
before the court. barack obama: you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. sam: united states v. texas challenges the president's executive action on immigration, a series of measures shielding as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. a supreme court tie again reverts back to the circuit court, which in this case put a freeze on the president's program. female: i hope the court rules that a student's race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the university of texas. sam: an upcoming decision on affirmative action would not end in a split because justice elena kagan is recused. that leaves only seven judges, and the most likely scenario is the four conservative justices establish a new precedent banning affirmative action. finally, the affordable care act and birth control drugs, yet another aca case before the court. actually, seven cases all rolled into one, challenging the ability of religious nonprofits like schools or hospitals to not
only opt out of contraceptive coverage, but also prevent third parties from offering the same coverage to affected women. in this instance, a tie would force all seven cases back to the lower courts, where the decisions have been mixed. pratheepan: you might be left with a patchwork of, you know, in some circuits this is the rule, and other circuits this is the rule. sam: gulasekaram says this inconsistent application of the law could prove troublesome. pratheepan: but this is--this is some of the difficulties that occur when you have a vacancy come up and there's the possibility of not filling that vacancy for a very long time. sam: and an update now. the supreme court heard the texas abortion case last week, considered by many justice experts to be one of the most important of its kind in a generation. we're going to continue to follow the latest developments and bring you analysis. in the meantime, the political races still steamrolling right along, and fireworks on super tuesday.
when the smoke cleared, donald trump scooped up 7 out of 11 states, proving to the establishment that he is a force to be reckoned with. as republican leaders scurry in search of a backup plan, anything they can muster to displace trump, the question remains, can he be stopped? the trump train is officially roaring full-tilt after banking in seven more states on super tuesday. can anything derail his track to the nomination? is it fair to say that the republican party is ready to pull out all of the stops to try to take out trump? bill whalen: is there a nuclear option within the republican party for stopping trump? and i think yes, there is a nuclear option, which is to try to deny him 1,237 delegates, the number he needs to win on the first ballot in cleveland. sam: hoover fellow bill whalen is talking about a game of delegate keep-away. trump only has about a quarter of the pledged delegates that he needs to seal up a nomination. ted cruz: for the candidates who have not yet won a state,
who have not racked up significant delegates-- sam: the prevailing republican strategy is to consolidate the field, forcing trump to go head to head with either ted cruz or marco rubio. except whalen explains that polling shows that that would backfire. bill: and they posed hypotheticals of trump vs. rubio, and trump vs. cruz. trump beat rubio by i think 6 points, he beat cruz by 13 points, so the narrative of trump loses in a head to head to either of those two doesn't necessarily pan out. donald trump: delay, delay, delay. sam: if republicans want to delay until cleveland, keep this in mind. march 15th is the real super tuesday. that's when florida and ohio vote. throw in new jersey on june 7th and that's three winner take all states. and if trump takes all three, it's game over. the reality is rubio and cruz need to stay in the race, and hope that one can carry a crucial winner take all primary, or else it will be donald trump holding the trump card.
so, let's play the hypothetical here. if the gop manages to keep the donald from getting enough delegates, it likely means a brokered convention in cleveland this summer. republicans have not engineered one of those in over 60 years, dating all the way back to 1948 and the nomination of thomas e. dewey. coming up next, we're tracking some presidential history, and look at primary elections through the years as we fact check the claim that a top finish in new hampshire guarantees a presidential nomination. plus. paul nyhof: and so, when i think about if i retire in 30, 34 years, am i--is that money going to be there? it's a real concern not just for me, but other teachers i've talked to. sam: public employees unnerved over their pensions. we analyze an alarming new report, which finds california's crushing pension debt will fall on taxpayers' shoulders.
a flurry of claims come out of each primary election, in case you didn't notice. but here's a headliner. since world war ii, the first or second place winner in new hampshire has gone on to win the gop nomination. is that true? actually, yes. and typically, it's the winner who seals up the nomination. since 1948, when thomas e. dewey decimated his competition and won the new hampshire primary, every single first place finisher, except for 3 highlighted in red there on your screen, represented the republicans in november. other candidates who kept up that trend: dwight eisenhower, richard nixon, ronald reagan, and most recently mitt romney. surely a positive sign statistically for donald trump that in the modern era, 82% of the time, the new hampshire winner captures the gop nomination. as for the democratic side. hillary clinton: it's not whether you get knocked down that matters.
it's whether you get back up. sam: and hillary clinton should like her chances of holding on to front runner status. since 1972, a candidate who finished in the top two in new hampshire represented democrats in the fall. but this time, it's closer to an even split, seven granite state winners versus four runner-ups have captured that nomination. but in 2012, when barack obama won new hampshire, he was already the presumptive nominee. so, in the last truly contested new hampshire primary back in 2008, hillary won. so, it's possible the former secretary of state could find more success as the second-place finisher this year. and if the historical data tells any story, it's this. hillary clinton stands a better chance of grabbing that final spot on your ballot than new hampshire's republican runner-up, john kasich. okay, how about our chances now of keeping california pensions afloat? up next.
sam: sounding the alarm on pensions, that is the topic of a new report claiming that our state's pension debt is unsustainably high, and bound to fall on our shoulders, specifically california taxpayers. we crunch the numbers to explore whether you and i are facing a looming crisis. hanging on the horizon, an issue that could affect playgrounds, parks, and police forces all over california. pension liabilities, primed to rob our state's piggy bank.
at least, that's the alarming claim coming from the right-leaning pacific research institute, which just authored this report, "california's pension crowd-out." wayne winegarden: how fast is the boat sinking? sam: author wayne winegarden says it's time to ring the bell on this issue. wayne: we need to accept that there are these costs, and we need to address it, and not just ignore it and pretend it's not there. sam: the costs are pension payouts and healthcare benefits owed to more than a million public workers in california. today, we're about $170 billion short. to put that into perspective, that's almost one and a half times the state's annual buet, or $10,000 for every person living in california. sam: are we looking at a ticking time-bomb? sarah: yes, yes. sam: uc berkeley's sarah anzia has been studying the pension issue for years, and she shudders at the thought of not acting now. sarah anzia: it's either going to mean cuts to services, big increases in taxes, or they could issue more debt,
which just kicks the can down the road. so, the situation is bleak. sam: so, how did we get here? imagine for a second that this is the state's pension piggy bank. and for years, california's been putting in nickels and dimes when it should be putting in quarters. at the same time, the state's been enriching benefits, doling out dollars that it doesn't have. bottom line, if we don't fix this faulty math equation and soon, the entire bank could crumble to pieces. paul: i just love being with the students. sam: that's a worry for public workers like san jose middle school science teacher paul nyhof, who's only been teaching for about 10 years. paul: i do have real concerns that 30 years down the road, when it's time for me to retire, that it'll be there, yeah. and i think a lot of teachers share that same concern. sam: so, where do we go from here? let's start in sacramento, where legislators would have to change a long-standing law that says pension benefits for current state employees are untouchable. sarah: you can't change them.
in the state constitution, it says so. that is the provision in the state constitution that is so critical here, and that actually makes it very difficult for the state to do anything to change--to address the problem. sam: the state could change the formula for future employees, asking them to contribute more or receive less. but nyhof worries that would have serious repercussions in his field. paul: that is going to compound the problem we have of convincing teachers to come into this field. sam: and it's not just teachers. it's cops, healthcare workers, administrators, 1.3 million active members of state-run pension plans, a tidal wave of workers who must be paid. wayne: we shouldn't completely put it on the taxpayers, where young people of today are paying taxes and not receiving very many government services for that because all that money is being diverted to pay for past costs that weren't paid for. sam: and to sum it up, that is the sad reality. you and i will ultimately pay the price.
now, it should be noted governor brown signed a reform bill into law in 2012 that raises the retirement age for some employees, and it also caps future benefits. but the numbers still don't add up. and here's the scariest part. our deficits, the pension deficits, are just estimates based on how pension funds perform. if they miss their mark, or if the market dips, or if the economy stumbles, we're not looking at a problem, we're looking at a financial avalanche. disconcerting as it might sound, that report is true. if you would like to see more in-depth stories like these, please visit our webpage, nbcbayarea.com/realitycheck. we examine issues every day that affect you, from national politics to local events and policies that impact everybody living in the bay area. and we want to hear from you. if you have an idea for a "reality check" story, please email your tips to email@example.com.
that is going to do it for this special edition of "reality check." we're going to keep following this very exciting political season, and bring you the truth behind the candidates' many claims. and remember, march the 15th, the winner take all elections in florida and in ohio could determine the republican nomination on that day. so, stay tuned for our segments ahead of that all-important date. and in the meantime, you can always check out our segments, which air every single week on nbc bay area news at 6 o'clock. thank you for watching. have a great night. [music] [music]
♪ ♪ >> as bagpipes played as they did at the end of her beloved husband's funeral. she was carried to the gravesite of ronnie, reunited with her husband of 52 years. she will be buried within inches of the former president. the reagan kids. patti and ron, touched the casket. guests paid their final respects including michelle obama and hillary clinton. about two hours earlier the service began with the santa suzanna high school choir singing battle hymn of republic, ron's favorite. nancy planned about every detail of the funeral as is the norm for presidents and first ladies. >> there were moments in our history that all that was going on between us was love. i choose to remember those moments. patti shared a complicated relationship with nancy. during her eulogy she spoke of